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International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature

ISSN 2200-3592 (Print), ISSN 2200-3452 (Online)


Vol. 1 No. 7; November 2012 [Special Issue on Applied Linguistics]

A Comparative Study of the Rhetorical Moves in Abstracts of


Published Research Articles and Students Term Papers in the
Field of Computer and Communication Systems Engineering
Lam Yik San
Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication
Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor
E-mail: lamyiksan@yahoo.com
Helen Tan
Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication
Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 UPM Serdang, Selangor
E-mail: helen@fbmk.upm.edu.my
Received: 20-10- 2012

Accepted: 22-11- 2012

Published: 25-11- 2012

doi:10.7575/ijalel.v.1n.7p.40

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/ijalel.v.1n.7p.40

Abstract
This study seeks to compare and contrast the rhetorical moves in abstracts of students term papers and published
articles in the field of Computer and Communications Systems Engineering. The reason is to identify to what
extend the rhetorical moves used in the abstracts of students term papers approximate to the published articles.
Using Santos (1996) five move pattern as the model of analysis, the data indicated that both the abstracts in the
students term papers and the published articles did use some of the rhetorical moves. However, the pattern of
use did vary among them. Furthermore, the study also revealed that abstracts with a complete five moves
presented a more comprehensive overview of the content of the study when compared with abstracts with limited
moves. These findings could heighten the awareness of the student writers as to how abstract writing should be
structured and it could also increase their sophistication in the crafting of an effective abstract. Finally, the data
could also form as an informed input for both writing instructors and program designers to incorporate the
learning of the rhetorical moves in abstract writing instructions.
Keywords: Expert Writers, Novice Writers, L2 Writers, Rhetorical moves, Abstract Writing
1. Introduction
An abstract is a brief, comprehensive summary of the content of an article or research proposal (Fain, 1998).It
allows the readers to view the contents without having to read the complete article. According to Van Bonn and
Swales (2007), the common text length of an abstract is usually between 100-250 words and it includes the main
features and findings of the study. Even though short, abstract writing like other types of academic writing (thesis,
technical report, research articles, to name a few) is a genre on its own. In other words, abstract writing has an
accepted formal structure that is known and accepted by the discourse community.
This formal structure or organization in abstract writing is realized in the form of the rhetorical moves in abstract
writing. Such a notion was first mooted by Swales (1981, 1990) who investigated the introduction of Research
Articles (RA) and found them to contain a regular pattern of moves and steps. Swales (1981, 1990) posits that
for a writer to write the introduction section of a research article succinctly, he has to write commencing with
Move 1 which is establishing a territory. Within Move 1, the writer has to claim centrality to his work, making
topic generalization and reviewing previous research (see Table 1). Next, he has to establish a niche (Move 2)
where the writer has to indicate the gap of his research and finally concluding with Move 3 which is occupying a
niche where the writer announces the purpose of his study.

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International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature


ISSN 2200-3592 (Print), ISSN 2200-3452 (Online)
Vol. 1 No. 7; November 2012 [Special Issue on Applied Linguistics]
Table 1. Swales Identification of Moves and Steps in the Introductory Section of a Research Article
Move 1

Establishing a territory
Step 1: Claiming centrality
Step 2: Making topic generalization(s)
Step 3: Reviewing items of previous research

Move 2

Establishing a niche (BOLD)


Step 1: Indicating a gap

Move 3

Occupying the niche (BOLD)


Step 1: Announcing present research

Swales (1981, 1990) idea on moves in writing introduction in research articles has motivated many researchers to
look for regular patterns in other types of academic writing. One such area that is of interest to researchers is the
move-pattern in abstract writing. Swales (1981, 1990) model has been widely used in analyzing introductions in
various English academic genres such as in business writing (Bhatia, 1993; Hiranburana, 1996; Chakorn, 2002).
Other studies which were also influenced by Swales work are those by Graetz (1985) and Salvager-Meyer
(1990). Graetz (1985) examines rhetorical moves in RA and found them to have the following pattern: Problem
Method Results Conclusion. On the other hand, Salvager-Meyer (1990) investigated the moves in the
abstracts of research article and found that there were six moves. They are Statement Purpose
Corpus/Method Results Conclusion Recommendation.
It has also been found that besides the regular move pattern, variation in the rhetorical move structures is also
observed in abstract writing. Huckin (2001), for example, found that the abstracts of medical fields often have
the exclusion of stating the purpose as a move. Meanwhile, Kanokslapatham (2007) found that the occurrence of
Move 3, Step 5: Announcing principal outcome in biochemistry (52 abstracts) occurs twice as frequently as in
the microbiology (26 abstracts). As noted by Bhatia (1993), differences of style and rhetorical structures exist in
the macro-organization of writing and they could be due to different genres serving different communicative
purposes.
As the literature on abstract writing abound, the rhetorical moves in abstract writing constantly undergo further
examination and development. Santoss (1996) five-move model is an example. Noting the inadequacy of Swales
(1980) CARS model, he proposes that the organization of abstract writing could be characterized based on moves
and each move has a clear function. (see Table 2).
Table 2. Santos (1996) framework for abstract analysis
Moves

Function/Description

Question asked

Move 1: Situating the research


<STR>

Setting the scene for the current


research(topic generalization)

What has been known about


the field/topic of research?

Move 2: Presenting the research


<PTR>

Stating the purpose of the study, research


questions and/or hypotheses

What is the study about?

Move 3: Describing the


methodology <DTM>

Describing the materials, subjects,


variables, procedures

How was the research done?

Move 4: Summarizing the


findings <STF>

Reporting the main findings of the study

What did the researcher find?

Move 5: Discussing the research


<DTR>

Interpreting the results/findings and/or


giving recommendations,
implications/applications of study

What do the results mean?

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So what?

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International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature


ISSN 2200-3592 (Print), ISSN 2200-3452 (Online)
Vol. 1 No. 7; November 2012 [Special Issue on Applied Linguistics]
As seen in Table 2, Santos (1996) believes that a clear comprehensive abstract should have 5 moves. It
commences with Move 1, Situating the research (STR) in which the setting for the current research is discussed
followed by Move 2, Presenting the research (PTR). In Move 2, the purpose of the study, research questions or
hypotheses are presented. The next move is Move 3 which is Describing the methodology (DTM). It describes
the materials, subjects, variables and procedures used in a study. This move is then followed by the findings of
the study in Move 4 which is known as Summarizing the findings (STF). In this move, the writers report the
main findings of the study in brief. Finally, the framework ends with Move 5, Discussing the research (DTR)
where the results or findings are found, where recommendations, implications or applications are discussed.
Using his five-move pattern framework, he analyses 93 selected abstracts in the discipline of Applied Linguistics.
He found that almost all of the abstracts used Move 2, Move 3 and Move 4. 80% of the abstracts have Move 5
while the least used move was Move 1 which only saw 43% of usage.
Like Swales (1980), Santos (1996) framework of abstract analysis has also greatly influenced the works of
researchers that came after him. One such work was by Pho (2008). Using Santos model, he conducted a study
on abstract writing in applied linguistics and educational technology. In his study, he found that all of the
abstracts in his studies contained Move 2 to Move 5. Move 5 was recorded as 80% of occurrence and Move 1, on
the other hand, appears as the least used move with only 43%. As seen in the findings, Santos (1996) and
Phos (2008) findings revealed a similar pattern which suggested that Move 2, Move 3 and Move 4 are
obligatory moves whereas Move 1 is seen as the optional move in abstract writing. However, in Santos study
(1996) Move 5 appears to be a less obligatory move with only 53% of occurrence.
Although research into abstract writing have all pointed to the importance of a regular pattern in the organization
of abstract writing, such convention in writing maybe unknown to L2 writers, particularly to L2 beginner writers.
To compound the problems, L2 writers also have problems with the syntax, morphology and semantics of
English. This has been documented in several studies. Ventola (1994) found that German scholars had difficulties
in producing English-language abstracts in their own fields. Additionally, Johns (1992) also showed how
Brazilian scholars struggle to write their abstract writing in English where it was found that that they tend to
translate Portuguese structures into English inappropriately. Birch (1996), in his study also highlighted that
French scholars frequently make lexico-grammatical errors when writing in English.
Towards this end, this study seeks to examine the rhetorical moves in the abstract writing of students term
papers and that of published articles. Students writings are often unsophisticated and therefore can be termed as
beginner writers writings. On the other hand, published articles which would have gone through some editorial
process by the discourse community could be considered as the benchmark the beginner writers could aspire to.
As a result of these rationales, the following research questions were framed to guide the study.
1.

What are the frequency of use of the rhetorical moves in the abstracts of both the students term papers
and published articles in the field of Computer and Communications Systems Engineering?
2. How are the moves in the abstracts written in the students term papers different from the ones in the
published articles?
3. How does the use of the rhetorical moves affect the overall comprehensibility of the content of the
study?
2. Methodology
To realize the objectives of the study, a quantitative analysis was adopted where the frequency of occurrences (in
percentages) of the moves in the abstracts of student writers and writers of published articles were tabulated. The
selection of the samples of abstracts of students term papers and writers of published articles in the field of
Computer and Communication Systems Engineering and the instrument used in the study are discussed below.
2.1 The abstracts of published articles
A total of thirty abstracts from three recognized published journals in the area of Computer and Communication
Systems Engineering were chosen randomly from the year 2005-2012. Seven abstracts were selected from the
Journal on Decision Support Systems, fifteen from the Journal on Computer Communications, and eight from
the International Journal of Computer Vision (see Appendix 1). These three journals were chosen based on
information gathered from an expert informant. These journals are high impact factor journals and therefore are
from reputed journals in the field of Computer and Communication Systems Engineering. As this being the case,
the writers from this selection of abstracts will henceforth be known as expert writers abstracts.

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International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature


ISSN 2200-3592 (Print), ISSN 2200-3452 (Online)
Vol. 1 No. 7; November 2012 [Special Issue on Applied Linguistics]
2.2 The abstracts of students term papers
A total of 30 final year project papers of the Computer and Communication Systems Engineering undergraduates
in a Malaysian university from the year 2009 2010 were compiled. Their selection was mainly based on
convenience sampling as the researcher could only compile what was given. To distinguish the expert writers
abstracts with the abstract writing of the students term papers, the writers of this collection of abstracts will
henceforth be known as novice writers abstract. This is because abstracts of students term papers would
normally not go through any blind review in the editorial process as compared with the expert writers abstracts.
Therefore, writers of this group of abstracts may not be that adept in the skill of academic writing.
2.3 Instrument
The instrument used as the analytical framework was that of Santoss (1996) five-move-pattern. The reason for
adopting Santos model is that it is comprehensive and clear to use as a framework of analysis as he has each
move clearly explained (see table 2 above). For each move, he provides the function and some leading questions
that would help writers to identify the moves more succinctly. The usefulness of Santos (1996) model as a
framework for analysis has also been adopted by several researchers such as Bhatia (1993), Graetz (1985) and
Pho (2007).
2.4 Analysis Procedures
The analysis of abstracts in this study involved several stages. The initial stage in analysing an abstract was the
division of the content of the abstract into individual sentences. To maintain objectivity in the analysis, the
identifications of the moves in the abstracts were done by two raters and the researcher. If there were discrepancy
in distinguishing a particular move in a sentence, both the raters and the researcher would discuss and agree on a
common solution. An example of how an abstract was coded is shown in Table 3.
Table 3. Analysis of the Move Structure of an Abstract
Sentence
S1
S2

Text (719)
Passive RFID can be read only at a very short distances in order of
several meter.
This greatly limits its usefulness for certain applications.

Moves
Move 1:
STR
Move 1:
STR
Move 1:
STR

S3

Passive RFID tags do not have any internal source of energy, such as
a battery; instead it gets all the energy needed for functioning from
the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the reader.

S4

The objectives for this project to survey the existing long distance
passive RFID tag, evaluate existing solution of RFID tag and analyses
RF properly of the long distant RFID tag.

Move 2:
PTR

S5

The reader use in this study is Class I Generation 2. The study overall
focusing on power source and distance.

Move 3:
DTM

S6

From the results, Motorola reader able to read the tag more than 8 m
compared with Samsung reader only measure until 5 m.

Move 4:
STF

S7

The higher of frequency the long of distance can read by the reader.

S8

Conclusion, Motorola reader is better than Samsung reader.

Move 5:
DTR
Move 5:
DTR

STR: Situating the Research, PTR: Presenting the Research , DTM: Describing the Methodology, STF:
Summarizing the Findings, DTR: Discussing the Research

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International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature


ISSN 2200-3592 (Print), ISSN 2200-3452 (Online)
Vol. 1 No. 7; November 2012 [Special Issue on Applied Linguistics]
As seen in Table 2, abstract 719 has eight sentences (S1, S2...S8). The move for each sentence was then
identified. They were identified based on Swales (1990:131-132) bottom-up and top-down approaches. The
bottom-up approach is where the identifications of the moves in the abstracts are distinguished clearly by the
linguistic realization of the moves. The examples below show the linguistic realization (in bold) that determined
the moves in the abstracts.
1. The objectives for this project to survey the existing long distance passive RFID tag, evaluate
existing solution of RFID tag and analyses RF properly of the long distant RFID tag. (Move 2: PTR)
(Text 719)
2.We conclude that both static and dynamic channel allocation strategies have advantages and
disadvantages, and the design of channel allocation algorithms strongly depends on the interference
model and the assumption of network traffic.(Move 4: STF) (Computer Communications 121)
As seen in the examples above, the use of lexical features (in bold) which explicitly state the types of moves
used. The noun phrase, The objectives for this project to survey. distinguished clearly that the move used is
Move 2 and We conclude that both static. evidently shows that this sentence belongs to Move 4. In the
absence of a clear linguistic signal to identify the moves, the top-down approach was used. This approach
distinguishes moves based on the content of the abstracts. In other words, the moves were distinguished based on
the meaningful reading of a sentence itself or a few sentences to define which move it belongs to. This is shown
in the examples below,
3. The fundamental idea of the project is to create a sign language glove to detect and interpret the hand
gesture of American Sign Language (ASL). (Move2: PTR) (Text 733)
4. Furthermore, the creation of the diffusion animation is in a instant and also requires significantly
lower computational cost compared to any recent methods. (Move 3: DTM) (Text 746)
The verb phrases (is to create, to detect and interpret) with the presence of the noun phrase (the fundamental
idea) in example 3, distinguished the move as Move 2. Meanwhile, the structures of the sentence in example 4
with the verb (requires) after the noun phrase (the creation of the diffusion animation), distinguished the sentence
as Move 3.
As stated by Santos (1996) and Holmes (1997), solution to the identification moves of fuzzy sentences in
abstracts was dependent on each sentence as the basic unit for the analysis. However, Mitzuta et al. (2004)
claimed that segments of text smaller than a clause in a unit should not be counted as moves. However, given
the fact that abstracts are condensed texts, and that there has been evidence of a move embedded in another
move in abstracts (see Pho (2008) and Santos (1996), the exclusion of phrases as a move does not seem to be
realistic. Thus, for the analysis of the abstracts in this study, a move can be realised by structures ranging from a
word, a phrase or even several sentences. This is shown in examples 1 and 2.
Example 1
Sentence
S4

Text: Computer Communications 124

Moves

The new computationally efficient LC is used in turbo equalization and

Move 3:
DTM

is shown to have equivalent or better performance than the conventional


LC in terms of BER

Move 4:
STF

DTM: Describing the Methodology , STF: Situating the Findings

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International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature


ISSN 2200-3592 (Print), ISSN 2200-3452 (Online)
Vol. 1 No. 7; November 2012 [Special Issue on Applied Linguistics]
Example 2
Sentence
S3

Text: International Journal of Computer Vision 137

Moves

Many factors can affect the performance of an iris recognition system,

Move 1:
STR

and in this study the authors report an experimental investigation of the


interrelationship between some characteristics which are particularly
relevant in understanding how to manage the practical effects of ageing
with respect to this modality.

Move 2:
PTR

STR: Situating the Research, PTR: Presenting the Research


Examples 1 and 2 showed that there was a need to separate the sentence structures into two smaller units due to
the different moves used. The sentence in Example 1 has two different moves, Move 3 and Move 4 and the
sentence in Example 2 has Move 1 and Move 2. To determine if a move is obligatory, there should be an 80% of
the move occurrence as suggested by Santos (1996) and Pho (2008). Moves which occur below 80% would be
regarded as optional. Besides identifying the move structures, there was also a need to take into consideration
the text length of each of the abstract. In this study, the minimum words use in the abstracts was 64 words and
with a maximum of 320 words. The decision was motivated by the assumption that text length might affect the
number of moves used in an abstract.
To conclude, rigor in methodology in any research is essential to yield an objective finding. Therefore, with
Santos (1996) comprehensive model, it was hoped that results teased from the analysis of the abstracts written
by the student writers and writers of the published articles would in some way be informative and insightful on
how beginner writers and accomplished writers write.
3. Results and Discussion
The frequency of use of the rhetorical moves in the abstracts of expert and novice writers is captured in Figure 1.
Figure 1. The occurrence of rhetorical moves in the expert and the novice writers abstracts
120
100
80
Expert Writers

60

Novice Writers
40
20
0
STR(1)

PTR (2)

DTM(3)

STF(4)

DTR(5)

STR: Situating the Research, PTR: Presenting the Research , DTM: Describing the Methodology,
STF: Summarizing the Findings, DTR: Discussing the Research.
Figure 1 above indicated that the expert writers had the highest frequency of move for Move 2 (97%) followed
by Move 1(83%) respectively. In contrast, Move 5 had the lowest frequency of use (20%) followed by Move 3
(59%) and Move 4 (67%). As for the novice writers, Move 1 and Move 3 recorded the highest frequency of use

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International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature


ISSN 2200-3592 (Print), ISSN 2200-3452 (Online)
Vol. 1 No. 7; November 2012 [Special Issue on Applied Linguistics]
and with similar frequency of occurrences (80%). The next highest frequency of use was Move 2 (77%) followed
by Move 5 (60%). In contrast, Move 4 recorded the least frequency of use with a percentage of only 33%.
From these results, it could be concluded that Move 1 and Move 2 were obligatory moves in the abstracts of the
expert writers while the other three moves (Move 3, 4 and 5) were seen as optional. In the novice writers
abstracts, however, Move 1 was found to be an obligatory move and the second obligatory move was Move 3
and not Move 2 as found in the expert writers abstracts. In fact, Move 2 was found to be an optional move.
Although the abstracts in both groups of writers registered Move 4 and 5 as optional moves, their frequency of
occurrences were quite different. While the expert writers had very low frequency of use for Move 5 (20%), the
novice writers lowest frequency of use was Move 4.
These results indicated that the pattern of use of the rhetorical moves in the novice writers abstracts did not fully
mirror the pattern of use of the rhetorical moves in the expert writers abstracts. While the expert writers viewed
situating the research and presenting the research as important moves in abstract writing, the novice writers
perceived describing the methodology as more important than presenting the research.
Besides the difference in the frequency use of the rhetorical moves in the abstracts of both groups of writers, it was
noted that the text length in the abstracts were also varied. The text length ranged from 64 words to 320 words.
Within this varied text length, it was found that some abstracts used all the five moves while in some, some
rhetorical moves were omitted (see Table 4).
Table 4.The number of moves used of the expert and novice writers abstracts based on the text length.
Number of Rhetorical Moves Used by Expert and Novice Writers
Text
Length

(words)

TOTAL
ABSTRACTS

Nov

Exp

Nov

Exp

Nov

Exp

Nov

Exp

Nov

Exp

Nov

Exp

64-99

100-152

15

153- 252

18

252-320

TOTAL

16

10

11

30

30

Key: Nov: Novice Writers

Exp: Expert Writers

In terms of text length, most expert writers (15 abstracts) wrote a text length of 100-152 words. On the other
hand, 18 novice writerswas found to be within the text length of 153-252 words. For the text length of 252-320
words, there was no abstract found from the expert writers. However, five abstracts were found to be from the
novice writers. As for the text length of 64-99 words, 9 expert writers abstract were found as compared with the
novice writers where only one abstract was found.
Within these varied text lengths, the majority of the abstracts were found to contain 3 to 4 moves. As found in
Table 4 above, a total of 16 novice writers and 10 expert writers abstracts had 3 moves while 7 novice writersand
11 expert writers abstracts had 4 moves. Surprisingly, only a marginal number of them wrote using all the five
moves. Only 4 novice writers and 2 expert writers abstracts were found to have all the 5 moves. Writing the
abstracts with only one move was found in one novice writers abstract. However, none of the expert writers wrote
their abstracts with only one move. The sample of the one move abstract written by a novice writer is shown in
Example 3.

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Vol. 1 No. 7; November 2012 [Special Issue on Applied Linguistics]
Example 3
Sentence
S1

S2

S3

S4

S5

S6

WSN-RFID BASED AUTONOMOUS TRANSPORT AND


LOGISTICS SYSTEM

Moves

Industrial and commercialisation of products are shifting towards


centralise distribution.

MOVE 1:

The idea is to serve the whole region from just one or two major
distribution hubs or warehouse facilities instead of national
stockholding operations.

MOVE 1:

Although transport logistic cost may rise but manufacturing unit costs
and inventory holding costs will fall.

MOVE 1:

In order to increase transport logistic efficiency, Autonomous Logistic


System plays a major role to ensure the efficiency of transport logistic
can be executed.

MOVE 1:

By utilizing RFID to detect each and every goods being loaded or


unloaded from the warehouse and WSN to detect the temperature for
perishable goods along the journey will definitely speed up
information processing, reduce unnecessary labour resources and
eliminate unnecessary waste of resources.

MOVE 1:

Furthermore with the advent of information technology which enable


information to be displayed on internet enable real time monitoring.

MOVE 1:

STR

STR

STR

STR

STR

STR

As can be seen above, the abstract which consists of six sentences has only one move which is situating the
research. An abstract which contains only information on the background of the study is inadequate to facilitate the
readers in knowing the essence of the study. What readers look for in an abstract is not only the background of the
study but also the research objectives, methodology and findings. These aspects of an abstract are necessary for the
readers to make sense of the study without reading the whole thesis or research article. Obviously, the writer of the
abstract who is a beginner writer needs to be initiated into the convention of abstract writing.
In contrast, an abstract with all the necessary five moves provides the essense of the research and hence enhances
the readers comprehension of the abstract. The abstract (see example 4) which was written by an expert writer
documents the five rhetorical moves used in the abstract.
Example 4

Sentence
S1

S2

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A Strong User Authentification scheme with Smart Cards for Wireless


Communications
Seamless roaming over wireess network is higly desirable to mobile users and
security such as authentification of mobile users is challenging.
Recently, due to tamper-resistance and convenience in manging a password
file, some smart card based secure authentification schemes have been
proposed.

Moves
MOVE 1:
STR
MOVE 1:
STR

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S3

This paper shows some security weaknesses in those schemes.

MOVE 2:
PTR

S4

S5

S6

S7

S8

S9

S10

S11

S12

S13

S14

As the main contribution of this paper, a secure and light-weight


authentification scheme with user anoymity is presented.

MOVE 2:

It is simple to implement for mobile user since it only performs a


symmentric encryption/decryption operation.

MOVE 3:

Having this feature, it is more suitable for the low power and
resource-limited mobile devices.

MOVE 3:

In addition, it requires four message exchanges between mobile


user, foreign agent and home agent.

MOVE 3:

Thus, this protocol enjoys both computation and communication


efficiency as
compared to the well-known authentification
schemes.

MOVE 3:

As a special case, we consider the authentification protocol when a


user is located in his/her network.

MOVE 3:

Also, the session key will be used only once between the mobile
user and the visited network.

MOVE 3:

Besides, security analysis demonstrates that our scheme enjoys


important security atributes sucha s preventing the various kinds of
attacks, single registration, user anoymity, no password/verifier
table, and high efficiency in password authentification, etc.

MOVE 4:

Moreover, one of the new features in our proposal is: it is secure in


the case that the information stored in the smart card is disclosed but
the user password of the smart card owner is know to the attacker.

MOVE 4:

To the best of our knowldege, until now no user authentification


scheme for wireless communications has been proposed to prevent
from smart card breach.
Finally, performance analysis shows that compared with known
smart card based autentification protocils, our proposed scheme is
more simple, secure and efficient.

PTR

DTM

DTM

DTM

DTM

DTM

DTM

STF

STF

MOVE 5:
DTR
MOVE 5:
DTR

From the example above, it is noted that the writer had commenced his abstract by providing the background
information to his study (S1-S2) followed by the research objective (S3-S4). Six lines (S5-S10) were devoted to
the methodology in which the writer highlighted the operation involved in the authentification protocol. From
S11-S12, the writer disclosed the results of the study and then concluded with the discussion of the research

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Vol. 1 No. 7; November 2012 [Special Issue on Applied Linguistics]
(S13-14). It is obvious that having such a neat sequence of rhetorical moves reflects the logical organization of the
abstract which in turn provides a comprehensible overview of information to the readers (Fain, 1998).
However, based on the information gathered in Table 4 above, it is interesting to note that the majority of the
expert and novice writers abstracts had three moves. A sample of a three move abstract is shown below.
Example 5
Sentence

Text (123)

S1

Knowledge Discovery in Databases (KDD) is a highly complex


process where a lot of data manipulation tools with different
characteristics have to be used together to reach the goal of
previously unknown, potentially useful information extraction.

Move 1:

The design of a KDD process implies the search for suitable tools,
the understanding of their scope and proper use, their composition
and so on.

Move 1:

All these activities can be supported by structured knowledge about


the tools.

Move 1:

This paper is devoted to presenting KDTML, a Knowledge


Discovery Tool Markup Language for the annotation of tool
characteristics, like the tool location and execution environment, I/O
interface and functionalities.

Move 2:

As an example of use of KTDML we discuss the implementation of a


wrapping service, which allows to automatically transform a KDD
tool written in any imperative language into a web service.

Move 3:

S2

S3

S4

S5

Moves
STR

STR

STR

PTR

DTM

STR: Situating the Research, PTR: Presenting the Research , DTR: Describing the Methodology
The abstract above was written in 135 words with five distinct sentences (S1-S5). The writer chose to commence
his abstract by situating his research in which he provided some background knowledge (S1-S3) on Knowledge
Discovery in Databases (KDD). He then informed the reader the purpose of the research (S4) and concluded his
abstract by stating the instrument used in the study. The writer seemed not to be too concern about disclosing his
findings nor discussing his research. Such a phenomenon needs further investigation as the writer did not
conform to the norms of abstract writing.
4. Conclusion
To conclude, the findings revealed that Move 1 and Move 2 were seen to be the obligatory moves for the two
groups of writers although the total occurrences of both moves were higher in the expert abstracts. Move 3 which
was seen as optional for the expert writers was however, seen as obligatory for the novice writers. For Move 4,
although both groups of the writers regarded the move as optional, the novice writers had less tendency of using
the move than the expert writers. However, Move 5 which appeared to be optional too for both groups of writers
was seen to be used more by the novice writers in the abstract writing. In other words, the expert and novice
writers were seen to take Move 1 and Move 2 as the obligatory moves but for Move 3, Move 4 and Move 5 the
writers tended to have different preferences of using the moves.
In terms of the move used and the comprehensibility of the abstracts, it is clear that within a five move pattern
abstract, having only one move does not provide clarity of the content of the abstract. In contrast, a complete five
move pattern abstracts provides a succinct overview of the study. As stated earlier, both the expert and novice
writers were seen to take Move 1 and Move 2 as obligatory moves. Therefore, it is not surprising that not all

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International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature


ISSN 2200-3592 (Print), ISSN 2200-3452 (Online)
Vol. 1 No. 7; November 2012 [Special Issue on Applied Linguistics]
abstracts were seen to utilize all the five moves.
The findings from this study have in some ways pointed to the fact that the five move pattern in abstract writing
may not be the norm for abstract writing in the field of engineering. This is evident in the variation of use in the
rhetorical moves in the engineering abstracts. In the pragmatic use of this genre, how an abstract is to be
structured could be dictated by the publishing or academic institution. In such a case, the novice writers need to
be aware of this requirement in order that they will be able to write an effective abstract.
Nevertheless, knowledge of the abstract genre is critical for novice writers. As evolving writers, knowing the
structure and what it takes to write an effective abstract would ease the process of writing. Such knowledge
should be imparted to the novice writers in writing classes at the tertiary level of education. It provides a
platform for the novice writers to be initiated into one of the conventions of academic writing.
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